Dave Bruno, a 37-year old Californian entrepreneur, is launching into a challenge - he calls it the 100 things challenge. He's working on cutting down what he owns to 100 items total. The fascinating conversation in the comments to his post centers mostly around how he counts the items - per pair, per collection, per category?
When I moved here from Italy, I brought only two suitcases containing clothes and books. Several years ago I finally disposed of the rest of my books I had stored in my family's garage. They were important enough to keep as my biggest love is that of learning, yet they were easy to give away after not holding them for years.
My philosophy has since been that of trading items - whenever I buy something, I give (which I prefer) or throw away something else. One spare closet has to remain empty and so it does. Yes, I park the car inside the garage without contending with piles of unused or older items. Periodically, I bring in books to work knowing that the intention is for them to not come back home again. Instead, I share them with colleagues.
I can see an economic slowdown if more of us adopt an even stricter challenge - that of not buying new stuff for one year. Imagine what wonders that would do for credit card payments and simplicity! What would be the implications of such a trend catching on for marketers?
Juliet Schor penned an interesting essay on consumerism that highlights some inverse relationship between consumerism and community. We know that we are not rational, deliberate and in control every time we buy, either.
One need only to think about brand preference to know that we make emotional connections to goods or betters. You buy Pepsi because it represents the future, Reebok shoes because the company stands for strong women. You develop a brand preference, and believe that your brand is superior in quality.
The Economist has an interesting article about the endowment effect, humankind's inner chimpanzee refusing to let go. When we own something, we associate more value with it. Hence the hesitation to letting it go. Schor states that consumption is social. The Economist adds:
Other “irrational” phenomena include:
- confirmation bias - searching for or interpreting information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions;
- the bandwagon effect - doing things because others do them; and
- framing problems - when the conclusion reached depends on the way the data are presented.
I present this information because it should affect the way we think about marketing. As Schor puts it, there are fruitful and essential linkages between production, consumption, and the environment that we should be making.
I would go further. I think there are fundamental decisions we need to make about the noise and clutter we make with our marketing communications.
- Too many materials confuse your brand. What does your brand stand for? There is a reason why we call them materials - they occupy space. During my career, I've done two full audits of marketing inventories: brochures, sell sheets, technical bulletins, etc. All occupying space in warehouses, many going into different directions on content.
The temptation is to think that more is more. In many instances less is more - try a short and to the point eBook instead of a long white paper; use digital versions wherever possible, do not overproduce. Most importantly, do not inflict competing materials on employees and customers.
- Too many materials confuse your employees and customers. Resist the temptation to think that your value depends on the volumes of things you produce. Instead, look at value as the ability to extract the essential elements of your brand promise and deliver those with consistency - that includes consistency of experience.
Your customers and employees care about being in a conversation with each other where you are now a participant, not the center. How does that consideration change the way you can think about materials? Your brand is a commodity if all you're doing is talk about yourself anyway.
My challenge to me and to you: what are the 100 unnecessary things that we can eliminate from our current marketing communications? They either do not work - a case of more is not more - or are inefficient. What are the activities and dynamics we could introduce to replace the ones that are not working anymore? Remember to trade one or two for one wherever possible.
We can start small. Feel free to make suggestions here in the comments. I will call this the 100 Marketing Conversations series in future posts - we will be discussing social media, social networks, events, communities and collaborative alternatives to the practices that we discontinue.
© 2006-2009 Valeria Maltoni. All rights reserved.